Manning was convicted in 2013 on 20 charges, including violating the Espionage Act, for leaking a massive trove of US documents and video to WikiLeaks. She was found not guilty of aiding the enemy, thereby avoiding a life sentence, but received 35 years in military prison.
The day after her sentencing, Manning came out as transgender. Manning began taking hormones in prison, becoming the first person to do so in military prison. She remained in an all-male Army prison until her release Wednesday.
Former President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence in January as one of his final acts in office.
Shortly after he took office, President Donald Trump called Manning
an “ungrateful traitor.”
By the time of her release, Manning had spent seven years behind bars.
Out of prison, Chelsea Manning looks forward to exploring life as a woman
By Emanuella Grinberg and Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
Manning came out as a transgender woman in prison.
As a prisoner at the US Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, she had to conform to male grooming standards before her 3 a.m. ET release.
“She has experienced trauma over the past seven years of her confinement and the trauma from those experiences won’t just evaporate the day she walks out of prison,” said American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Chase Strangio, who represented Manning.
“It’s going be a process for her to heal and begin to live her free life with more autonomy over her gender and her decisions and vision for the future.”
After her release, Manning said in a statement, “After another anxious four months of waiting, the day has finally arrived. I am looking forward to so much! Whatever is ahead of me is far more important than the past. I’m figuring things out right now — which is exciting, awkward, fun, and all new for me.”
She also tweeted a photo of her feet, clad in black, low-top Converse Chuck Taylors, with the caption, “First steps of freedom!!”
The Army says Manning will remain on unpaid, active-duty status as she continues to appeal her court-martial. This means she will maintain her access to military medical benefits, including for gender dysphoria and gender reassignment, but Strangio said his client has no interest because of the treatment she endured in prison.
“Because of the nature of her circumstances and the experience of confinement, she is very committed to living her life as free from the government as possible and taking care of her own health benefits and financial needs, separate and apart from the continued benefits available to her,” the lawyer said.
Manning was convicted in 2013 of stealing 750,000 pages of documents and videos before leaking them to WikiLeaks
Manning — known then as Bradley Manning — was sentenced to 35 years in prison on 20 counts
, including violations of the Espionage Act. After the 2013 sentencing, the ex-intelligence agent changed her name to Chelsea Manning
and identified as transgender.
As one of his final acts in office, President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence
in January, giving her an early release date.
Last week, Manning tweeted her excitement about her impending release
: “Freedom was only a dream, and hard to imagine. Now it’s here! You kept me alive. …”